After 4 games of Donnybrook am starting to get me head around the rules. Read my review of them and thought, good review but no analysis. If I had handed this in at the pentagon my boss would have handed it back! So here is my anaylsis of Donnybrook. Read the review from 7 Feb and then come back...
What I like about Donnybrook is the musket reload card. Sharp's Practice doesn't have this and it is a great idea. To be fair to SP, most of those weapons are rifles but it is a great idea. It adds unpredictability to the reload sequence. ( have to figure out how I am going to do rifles!) I like the card activation in general as I play 90% solitaire and this mechanism is very solitaire friendly. Changing the type of dice is novel and I will see if I like it. For hand to hand I think it works brilliantly and you can differentiate your hero (d12) from some scrub sailor (d6 or 8). As readers of this blog know I have been looking at how to do boarding actions for my pirate games. Donnybrook is the answer almost unmodified! The only modification it needs is for combat to be simultaneous. There are instances (such as first round of boarding) where the defender should go first but the rules state that the attacker normally goes first. This is just too much of an advantage to me and I have played it simultaneous after the first two games and it playes very well. There are not a ton of but several well thought out modifiers that give the combat flavor. It is very bloody but I would expect a Donnybrook to have men quickly out of the fight. (not neccessarily killed) I also love the wound table you roll if a character is hit. It is tied to the type of die so a bigger big man has less chance of being hurt or killed; elegant!! The factions are also well done. The characters by and large are useful, add color and are not too powerful or gamey. This is what is slowly turning me off to SAGA.
What I don't like about Donnybrook is that after playing Sharp Practice the combat in the open seems suicidal. These are muskets not rifles and I can't get anyone across open ground. In SP you need a 5-6 to hit on a D6 at short range. then you roll a save with 1-2 being a miss, 3-5 being shock and a 6 being a kill. In DB you need a 6 to hit and there is no saving throw. That seemed much deadlier upon reading and in practice this has proven to be the case. My asaulting units always get 50% casualties then roll a 1 or 2 on morale and rout or retreat. Now mathimatically this shouldn't happen but it continues. I am not am expert in this period but one of these two game systems has it a bit off. While we are knocking the shooting, unlike the Donnybrook sequence which has a few elegant modifiers, there are no modifiers for muskets other than being in close order-- boo. Now I understand I don't need to hold my fire until I see the whites of their eyes but it would be cool if I had too! The last thing I was disappointed about was the morale rules. They have been kept intentionally simple but they are a bit too simple for my taste. They don't kick in until 50% of your unit is gone and then you either retreat or are removed from the board. This just doesn't seem as elegant and well thought out as other parts of the rules. I was hoping for some wavering and a chance to stop routing troops.
Despite the shortcomings I think it is a very good set of rules. As stated in my review it offers a lot, particularly for someone not well versed in the period. It is easy to make a game complex. It is a tribute to Clarence that Donnybrook is relatively simple. The structure is there for the gamer to add his own level of complexity should he wish too. Highly recommended!
Since this blog is suppose to be about battles I will give you one. I have started to add my house rules to Donnybrook. These include variable movement, new morale, saves in the open for muskets, new leadership rules and two tea break cards instead of one. So far I am going to call this "Donny Practice." Off course once the rules are set I will roll this into a campaign format of "For King and Country." I take you now to Tangiers and Lt Prescot of the 21st regiment of foot...
"Prescot! I need you to take a cannon over to the bastion we are building over near the west side of town. These Wahlahs are all over so take some men with you to ensure the cannon gets there."
So Lt Prescot's adventure in Tangier begins. The men are still settling in so he takes a dozen including a promising Corporal named Tenison. They meet the four naval crew and off they go.
Lt Prescot D10 LvL 2 Gambler/ wealth
Cpl Tenison D8 Lvl 0 Pragmatic/ religious
standard bearer 11 drilled soldiers
Petty Officer Childs D8 LvL0 and 3 drilled sailors + 1 light cannon.
Suddenly the sky darkens with arrows and two men fall from the lead column.
Meanwhile back at the head of the column...
Great game and I was please that my changes enhanced the game for me. Still working on the musket fire in the open. Will play a couple more games with a 6 saving throw and see how it works. Maybe I am missing something. I really had fun though and that is what counts. For those whishing to try this the Natives had
Leader mounted D10
4 elite calvary bows and long swords
4 drilled calvary spears/ shields
Sgt d8 long sword shield
6 raw infantry with spears or long swords and shields I would probably give them 8 if playing again.
Natives set up hidden. Don't forget English get -1 morale against natives.